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Dr. Kestner: Will you be attending the New Year’s ‘Possum Drop?

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How many times have you watched the lighted ball drop over Times Square to welcome the New Year? This year billions of people around the world will be celebrating the beginning of a new calendar year. Not everyone will be glued to the television watching New York. There are a number of unusual alternative celebrations occurring that compete with the Big Apple for attention.

In Manhattan, Kan., otherwise known as “The Little Apple”, a giant aluminum apple will descend at midnight.

In Flagstaff, Ariz., local residents will gather to watch the dropping of a giant pinecone. Since 1999, the 70-pound pinecone has been lowered from the rooftop of the historic Weatherford Hotel in downtown Flagstaff. The tradition is reported to have origins in the annual New Year’s practice of tossing garbage cans decorated by locals with pinecones.

In Atlanta, one minute prior to midnight a huge 800-pound peach begins its descent at Atlanta Underground. The landing initiates a stunning display of fireworks. In Ty Ty, Ga., a giant peanut is the local icon of choice.

In Gatlinburg, a lighted ball will kick off the celebration and launching of fireworks as approximately 50,000 revelers toast the New Year.

In Key West, Fla., a conch shell is dropped. At one time, locals declared independence from the U.S. and named the island the Conch Republic. Other Florida cities mark the occasion by counting down with giant citrus fruits such as oranges or tangerines.

In other areas, the celebrations get a little strange. In Eastport, Maine, home of many sardine canneries, a dropping sardine gets the party started.

Traveling to Ohio? Be sure not to miss the Elmore Sausage Drop. Eighteen-feet-long and brightly lit, the New Year’s sausage gets the crowd going every year. Other events include sausage eating contests and a “dress your dog” competition.

Pennsylvania has probably the most diverse assortment of local New Year countdowns. In Akron, there is the purple and gold shoe. In Dillsburg, what else but a giant pickle? Blain boasts a life-size, wooden cow dropping into a silo. While in Seven Valleys, a broasted chicken falls as the last seconds tick off the year. Mechanicsburg drops a giant wrench.

In all, Pennsylvania towns hold at least 40 different local drops to mark the commencement of the New Year. The objects range from the typical ball to diverse items including a mega lollipop, steamroller, red lion holding a cigar, plywood hardhat, Hershey kiss, huckleberry, anchor, Indy car, giant M&M, pingpong balls and even a stuffed goat.

Prairie du Chien, Wis. is the only place I know of that drops a frozen carp to herald the New Year.

In Tallapoosa, formerly known as Possum Snout, Ga., an opossum replica will descend at the stroke of midnight. This odd event occurs only on odd years. (I would have enjoyed attending the city council meeting where they decided that Possum Snout wasn’t a good city name and replaced it with a more sophisticated one: Tallapoosa.)

As if one ‘possum drop wasn’t enough; Brasstown, N.C. celebrates the end of 2008 with the “lowering” of a live opossum. According to a spokesperson from Clay’s Corner where the annual non-alcoholic event takes place, “We bring the ‘possum to start the event and then the blessing and then we bring out the queens of the last 10 years and show them off ... and the church singing of songs and then the drop.” The live opossum is lowered in a clear plastic box as the last seconds of the year are counted down.

I’ll leave it up to our creative readers to make suggestions for ideas that might start a new tradition here in Rutherford County. Log on to post your ideas.

However you decide to celebrate, I hope you will do so with care and concern for the welfare of yourself and others. Unfortunately, lives are too often lost and futures forever harmed by severe injuries when partying turns into irresponsible behavior.

This is also a great time to plan a 2009 that will be your best year ever!

Dr. Mark Kestner
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